‘Students are given clinical and community exposure to help them become active change-makers’
Dr. Neeraj Mahindroo, Professor & Dean, UPES School of Health Sciences, has over 25 years of experience in academics and research. His current research interests are drug discovery for neglected diseases, neurological disorders and cancer, and screening of fractionated extracts and isolated compounds from plants from North-Western Himalayas. He is also a Member of Editorial Advisory Board of ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters, a prestigious journal of American Chemical Society, and Member of CII National Committee on R&D & Innovation 2020-21 and the Sub-group on Healthcare & Chemicals. He has 35+ international peer reviewed publications and five patents to his credit and is a regular speaker at seminars and conferences.
In an interview with Mansha Dhingra, Dr. Neeraj Mahindroo talks about healthcare as the sunrise industry of the next decade, the importance of multidisciplinary learning, and the new programs introduced by UPES School of Health Sciences
How is the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry evolving?
COVID-19 pandemic brought back the focus on healthcare. Even developed countries found it difficult to deal with the pandemic. This led to the adoption of advanced technologies in a short period which would otherwise have taken decades. The pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors are seeing major disruptions. The focus has gradually shifted from treatment to prevention with a patient-centric approach. Healthcare and pharmaceuticals companies are under constant pressure to reduce the cost across the world. This, in turn, is strengthening India as a ‘Healthcare Superpower’.
New therapies based on gene editing, genotyping, gene therapy, and stem cell are expected to shift focus on prevention, especially in diseases such as cancer, diabetes, neurology, and cardiovascular diseases. The emphasis has been on advanced technologies such as 3D printing of cells and organs; nanobots and nanochips for diagnostics and drug delivery and monitoring; and artificial organs. Prosthetics and exoskeletons; predictive analytics and wearable healthcare monitoring devices are expected to change the prevention, diagnosis, and cure of diseases giving much more control to the patient over their health.
Many biologicals are being approved as drugs and small molecules are gaining importance. The wellness, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical devices industries are rapidly growing in India as well as across the world. India is at the cusp of the transformation of pharmaceutical industry with an increase in automation, move towards continuous production, replacing the conventional batch-based production. The pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors are going through the process of digital transformation which have wider implications in the treatment of various diseases.
How can one make a career in the healthcare industry?
In the present market scenario, healthcare is the sunrise industry of India. The industry is expected to see double-digit annual growth over the next decade. Apart from the traditional healthcare jobs such as medical doctors, nurses, and physiotherapy, the healthcare industry has come up with emerging opportunities in various fields such as pharmaceutical sciences, biotechnology, microbiology, wellness, food technology, and more.
Aspiring students can opt for careers in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, clinical research, food and well-being industry, in production quality control, quality assurance, regulatory affairs, product design, formulation research, drug discovery and development, pharmacovigilance, diagnostics, scientific or medical writing, etc. They can work as nutritionists, dieticians, pharmacists, regulatory officers, researchers, and intellectual property officers. They can also start their ventures in the production, sales, and marketing of pharmaceutical, food and well-being products.
Why has pharmacy become the preferred choice for youngsters?
India is called the ‘Pharmacy of the World’, and this has been proven during the pandemic when the nation supplied drugs and vaccines to the developed nations such as the US. The Covid-19 crisis provides an opportunity for the Indian pharmaceutical industry to play an important role in global healthcare. India can produce high-quality pharmaceutical products at a low price as compared to the other countries. India has been the third-largest producer of pharmaceuticals in the world and accounts for 62% of vaccine production across the world. India has the highest number of FDA-approved manufacturing plants, after the US.
In recent years, India has become a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. Several start-ups are conducting research, manufacturing, and launching the best pharmaceutical products. International investors are looking forward to collaborating with Indian manufacturers. Thus, the demand for skilled pharmaceutical professionals has increased significantly.
Pharmacy is a licensed profession, thus giving opportunities to individuals to be entrepreneurs and skilled professionals with well-paid jobs.
What are some of the lucrative specializations UPES offers to its students?
UPES offers new-age specialisations such as Clinical Pharmacokinetics and Regulatory Affairs, Dietetics and Holistic Wellness and Nutraceutical and Nutritional Policy, Food and Environmental Microbiology, and Medical and Pharmaceutical Microbiology. UPES has also introduced integrated B. Tech-MBA programs in Biotechnology and Food Technology.
Students can opt for specific program electives through a choice-based credit system, allowing them to pursue specialisations of their interest. For instance, students pursuing biotechnology can gain hands-on knowledge in the chosen minors such as Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Biosimilars, or Plant Biotechnology. Similarly, B.Tech Food Technology students can specialise in Food Biotechnology or Food Plant Engineering; BSc-MSc (Nutrition and Dietetics) students can specialise in Dietetics and Holistic Wellness or Nutraceutical and Nutritional Policy; B.Sc-M.Sc (Microbiology) students can specialise in Food and Environmental Microbiology or Medical and Pharmaceutical Microbiology; BSc-MSc (Clinical Research) students can specialise in Clinical Pharmacokinetics or Regulatory Affairs.
Does UPES School of Health Sciences offer a multidisciplinary approach to its students?
UPES School of Health Sciences focuses on a multidisciplinary approach, providing opportunities to students for cross-disciplinary learning through the choice-based credit system. UPES has introduced School for Life, giving students the opportunity to take exploratory courses offered by different schools in the university.
For instance, students from School of Health Sciences can opt for courses such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, or Data Analytics, depending on their interest. If a student takes 18 credits in one specific field, he/she can earn a minor. Students also get the opportunity to study open electives from different disciplines offered by the school, thus broadening their knowledge base and giving them an edge in placements.
How is UPES skilling youngsters to be change-makers and solution providers for the healthcare sector?
UPES School of Health Sciences has strong industry tie-ups. The curriculum is designed based on inputs from industry and academic experts who are members of the Board of Studies and Industry Advisory Board of the School. The focus is on project-based learning, thus developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills among students. Undergraduate students are extensively involved in research projects and have published patents and research papers, made presentations for international conferences, written blogs and opinion articles with the faculty mentors. Students also get the opportunity to intern with NGOs, startups, government agencies and industry, thus exposing them to real-life problems. Industry experts interact with students and share their knowledge, ideas, and professional journeys. The entrepreneurship cell at the university creates opportunities for students to convert their ideas into ventures by providing them the necessary tools and guidance. Out-of-the-box thinking, clinical and community exposure are encouraged and are an integral part of the School of Health Sciences.